Being a Humble Player by Klevis Haskurti
I promised the CCG guys I’d write another article and so here it is. Today I don’t want to talk about gameplay, deck building or the metagame, today I want to talk about the attitude some people have when playing the game, and why that attitude will lead to you stagnate as a player. I want to instead present a better attitude to employ when facing opponents, and when building decks, an attitude that will help you reach the top as a competitive player. Many, many people reach a point in their Yu-gi-oh career where they just stop improving. I just recently (hopefully) got out of that rut myself, and I want to help others do it too, and that’s the reason for this article. The things I mention in this article are what I see as the primary culprits in the stagnation of the average Yu-gi-oh player.
I’m not gonna be nice though, I’ll present some harsh truths, mainly because for the longest time I fell into these very same traps and I really wish I had someone there to slap me and tell me to stop being an idiot. See this as your metaphorical slap.
Firstly I’m going to say this; if you’re reading this, the chances are that you’re bad at the game. There will be select few who have got into YCS finals or won a major tournament who this won’t apply to, but the majority of Yu-gi-oh players reading this article are straight up just going to suck at the game. Not everyone can be the best, some people have
to be better than others, and unfortunately for you, you’re not one of those people.
I know this because for a long time I was bad at the game, and in fact I still am. I’ve never won a YCS, in fact, I’ve never even topped YCS. In nearly every YCS or World Championship Qualifier I’ve been to, I’ve been knocked out in either the second to last round, or the last round before top cut. For the longest time I wondered why that was. Maybe I was just unlucky? Maybe everyone in the final rounds are cheating me? Maybe I was getting too fancy with my deck-builds or card choices?
It didn’t occur to me that I just suck at the game.
- 1. Realise you’re bad player.
If you want to improve as a player, you first need to acknowledge why you need to improve. And for most people they need to improve because they suck. This may be through your gameplay, or your deckbuilding; but there will be some aspect of the game you are not very good at, and you need to realise that. If you weren’t bad at that thing, you would have won a YCS by now. You are bad at that thing.
For me personally, it’s my gameplay. I am nearly one hundred percent confident in my deck building ability. I feel like I create great, consistent, and very surprising decks that, in the hands of a good pilot, would do very well at tournaments. Unfortunately, I’m not a good pilot. I make too many mistakes, I play too quickly, I get nervous. When watching or reading my feature matches I cringe at all the mistakes I made, and I know I would not have made those mistakes if I’d had learnt how to play under pressure. All these things contribute to me making huge mistakes that lose me games, or subtle mistakes that lose me matches, and this all adds up to an x-3 finish. I feel like the reason I nearly always
bubble, is because in the later rounds of a tournament, the power of my deck doesn’t matter as much as the weight of my misplays. The players in round 10 and 11 are just straight up better than me and don’t make mistakes. And that’s why they top and I don’t.
That’s my example. Think back to yourself now. Why are YOU a bad player (because I assure you, you are). Is your gameplay lacking? Do your decks suck? Are you constantly asking friends to fix your deck for you? Are you constantly going online and copying other, more trusted people’s decks? Are you playing certain cards without knowing why
you’re playing those cards? Are you changing your decklist in the registration queue? These are all symptoms of bad deckbuilding. You need to sit down, and think to yourself “why haven’t I topped an event yet”, and find an answer for yourself, but your answer is not allowed to be:
“I am unlucky.”
This is the get-out-of-jail-free card for bad players everywhere. You are not unlucky. You are just bad. Yes there have been times when your opponent has topdecked BLS and knocked you out of the tournament. Yes your opponent might have just had all the cards needed for you to lose. But those are the moments that you remembered because they were so pivotal. Think back to how many times you topdecked Raigeki, or had double Maxx C in the BA mirror, or any number of lucky moments. Can you remember them? No, of course not. Your brain highlights the moments where you got fucked-over, and files away the moments where you fucked someone else over. I assure you that your opponent from 2 years ago probably remembers the time you had the perfect Mermail hand and knocked him out at x-2, you just don’t. This confirmation bias leas people to thinking they are unluckier than they actually are.
Eventually your luck will equalise. Your unlucky moments will be counterbalanced by your lucky moments. Your bad beats will be negated by your god hands. Yes, Yu-gi-oh is a game of luck, but in a long enough time-frame, if you’ve played enough events, the result is almost negligible. I’ll ask you one thing, do you really think the professional players managed to get to where they are now through luck alone? Surely no one can say that’s true. It’s quite clear that while you might both have the same luck, the professional has more skill than you do.
- 2. Thinking you’re better than you actually are.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
describes the idea of bad players thinking they are on the same level as good players. Novices and amateurs often think themselves on the same level as professionals. You see Messi flunk an easy shot, or Nadal give away a point and you think: wow, they’re so bad, I could easily do better.
Bad players think they’re good. They think that after playing for one year and improving slightly, they are entitled to speak with or above the professionals. “Why is he playing that card, wow he’s so bad” or “that was the wrong play, how did this guy win a YCS?” are phrases I often here come out of novices mouths. While yes, good players do sometimes make mistakes, it doesn’t mean that you are better than them. The best players, the best athletes, the smartest scientists realise that they have a lot
more to learn and improve than the stage they are at now. Bad players often think they’re at their peak and better than everyone else, and automatically assume any failures are not their own fault, but faults of others; once again attributing the majority of their losses to luck. Luck is a cop-out, an easy escape, a method to stop yourself from reflecting on why you actually
lose. Never attribute to luck what could have easily been attributed to lack of skill.
I remember falling into this trap at the end of YCS Madrid. I had a good deck, but I sucked playing it and I was incredibly salty. I lost to Alpay Engin in a feature match because I played badly. I had a better deck, but I played badly. I saw Engin and Shmidt were both playing De-fusion in their side deck and the first words out of my mouth were “wow, they’re siding such bad cards”.
I’d never tried defusion, I’d never had it played against me, I never even properly looked into the card, but I dismissed two very good players as bad because they were playing a card I wasn’t. According to 2014 Klevis, if someone plays a card that I haven’t thought of before, they must be a bad player. How incredibly stuck up and assholey of me.
It’s only when I went home and actually tried the card in the side-deck of my shaddoll deck that I was thoroughly impressed by it. So impressed that it found itself into my main deck. Eventually it grew into a crazy shaddoll deck idea involving Archlord Kristya that took me to final round of YCS Milan, getting knocked out by Qliphort on the bubble. I would have really liked the have topped with that deck.
It taught me one thing; never write off a card just because you don’t play it. Don’t write off a deck just because you’ve never played it. Don’t call people bad because they play different cards than you, or because they play different cards to everyone else. Those are the people who will win and top events because they are willing to break rules and step outside comfort zones to one-up everyone else. Do not think you’re automatically better than everyone without any proof. Win two or three YCSes in a row and then you can argue you are better than every Yu-gi-oh player at the moment, before you’ve done that, you have to accept that people are better than you
, so don’t be an asshole and think you’re gods gift to Yu-gi-oh. Seriously
- 3. You do not deserve to win.
“Omg, he topdecked the exact card he needed to win”
“Wow, he misplayed all match and somehow he still won”
“He was playing a helmet deck. How am I supposed to beat a random rogue matchup like that? Fucking scrub”
All lines you’ve heard your friends say and yourself say probably a million times. I’m incredibly guilty of it. At YCS London 2013 (dragon format) I was knocked out by Madolche in Day 2. In YCS London 2014, I was knocked out by Karakuri in day 2. Normally after those kinds of losses I need to go outside and calm down for a bit. How could I lose to such a scrub deck by someone who barely knew how to play? What kind of idiot brings Madolche to a dragon format event anyway?
The point is, you lost. You didn’t deserve to win that game because your deck was better than your opponent’s deck, or because you played better, or because he had a stupid anime mat and you were playing on a spellground. If the best player deserved to win every game, then we’d have one person who won every single event in history. The person who deserved it the most.
You are not entitled to win. You might have been playing Yu-gi-oh for 10 years, you might have tested longer than your opponent, you might even have had a better deck, but you still weren’t entitled to win that game. Some games you lose, some games you win, and you have to deal with it. You will not win 100% of your games even if your deck is the best game in the room. Luck is a factor, so are counter-strategies. My karakuri opponent was maining royal decree, I was playing BA at the time when BA played a lot of traps. There was no way I was winning that match.
Don’t be an entitled prick. Take the game seriously and be humble about your matches. If it is round 8 and you play against Sattelarknights or Mermail or Infernoids, don’t say things like “wow another helmet deck, why isn’t this noob just playing something proper?” If your opponent is maindecking Odd-eyes or Skill Drain you shouldn’t think “wow who still mains that card in 2015? How am I losing to such a bad player”.
The reality is, you just got outplayed. If you’re playing against Infernoids at round 8, that player must have done something right in order to get that far. You shouldn’t be disregarding your opponent’s deck, you should be scared
of it. Treat every single one of your opponents with respect, don’t be an asshole. You might be playing a meta deck, and you might be playing a better deck, but you aren’t automatically guaranteed a win because of it, and if you lose, being salty and cursing your opponent out won’t solve anything. That person took a risk that magically paid out, and that person might X-0 a YCS with Volcanics. That person is better than you.
This one stems directly from the last point. For a long time I used to think that taking a rogue deck to an event that was geared to beating the meta was going to get me YCS top. I thought I was so smart and could beat all those stupid meta deck playing net-deckers with too much money.
I just kept getting destroyed. I wish my friends at the time were rude to me and told me to stop being an idiot and play a proper deck. I’ll say it for you now in case you haven’t had anyone tell you yet.
Stop being an idiot and play a proper deck.
Objectively, some decks are better than others. In order to do well next format, you will need to play Qli, Nekroz or BA. You can also do well with Sattelar or Shaddolls or Ritual Beasts, but not as well as the other tier 1 decks. You will probably not do well with Hermit Yokai, or Raccoons, or Volcanics (I’m pretty sure it was a one hit wonder).
- 4. Taking the Game Seriously
Take the game seriously. Play the deck that will give you the best chance of winning. If you really want to do well at an event, only play the best deck. Don’t think of meta players as unimaginative assholes who can’t build a deck for themselves. No, you’re the one being the asshole. If you’re taking Gadgets to a YCS and sneering about how your opponent had all the outs, have you considered that your opponent is actually just playing a better deck than you?
If you are serious about winning at Yu-gi-oh, you should always play the best and the most unfair deck. The hard part is realising which deck is the best deck, and how to build it well.
My own personal method of doing well at Yu-gi-oh is to play the best deck, but build it in a way that hasn’t been considered before. The deck still has the same basic strength and unfairness, but it exploits different things. If the decks were a species, mine branches off at an early point, but we both have a common ancestor. I personally think that the majority follows the same stale path when building meta decks, and they end of perfecting that path. But sometimes, a different path is just clearly stronger objectively, but just hasn’t been considered or explored. Examples are the mono-mermail builds from a few years ago, and the “Big BA” build from a few months ago. People were so intent on perfecting the original iterations of the deck, that they couldn’t see a different way to build it right under their noses. The people who did see it, piloted those different species to success.
My own personal advice, is not to play rogue decks, but to play rogue meta-decks.
This is another point that is really just an extension of the “take the game seriously” point. Sometimes when playing, you just end up thinking too much and making the game worse for yourself. Good players, and also players who think
they’re good, fall into the fancy-play trap. They think way too deeply into simple moves or interactions and it ends up going worse for them than if they’d actually just gone with the straightforward play. You might be saving the dark hole in your hand for Ojama Trio or Vanity’s Fiend, but playing it now can win you game the next turn. A bad player might take that risk and end up winning. A good player might think way too deeply and way too many turns ahead and end up not playing the dark hole, and then get punished by the opponent.
Some players might not play Snatch Steal or Upstart in their decks because they think too hard about it. They go through a lot of mental gymnastics in order to come up with reasons to not play those cards, when really the bottom line is that no matter how many reasons you can think of not to play them, the sheer power of those cards trumps those reasons.
It’s good to think deeply into card choices and gameplay interactions in Yu-gi-oh, but if you start trying to be too smart, and start thinking you’re Yu-gi-oh’s next innovator, then you can just end up building bad decks and making bad plays. I’m very guilty of this, for every good idea I have, I have about 20 bad ideas where I was just trying too hard to be innovative. Sometimes innovation is subtle and not glaringly obvious. Sometimes it’s a lone teched copy of Good & Evil in BA, or omitting Odd-eyes entirely from your Qliphort deck. Sometimes it’s deciding not to paly Shadow Games at all in Shaddolls even though everyone is calling you an idiot for doing so (and then being right in the end!).
Taking risks and being innovative is good, but being TOO fancy is bad. Think through your fancy ideas and think about whether you are trying to come across as too intelligent. Think through your flashy plays and think about whether what you’re doing is actually the optimal play, or if it’s just something to impress everyone who’s watching your match.
That’s about it for now. I don’t want to bore you all with pages and pages of advice from a self-professed bad player like myself. Hopefully you can take aspects of what I’ve said and implement them in your own philosophy for yu-gioh. Don’t be an asshole, realise you have a lot of work to do, realise you aren’t owed your wins, and take the game seriously. Try and say humble.
Author: Klevis Haskurti